For many years they have been a mainstay of kids’s birthday events, entertaining us with squirty flowers, animal-like balloons and foolish faces. 

However regardless of bringing happiness to so many individuals, others additionally see a sinister, creepy facet to clowns that offers them a sense on uneasiness.

So simply what’s it that makes us concern them?

With Halloween on the horizon, MailOnline spoke to a variety of psychologists to get their ideas in regards to the causes of so-called coulrophobia.

For decades they've been a mainstay of children's birthday parties, entertaining us with their squirty flowers, animal-like balloons and silly faces. So what is it that makes us fear clowns?

For many years they have been a mainstay of kids’s birthday events, entertaining us with their squirty flowers, animal-like balloons and foolish faces. So what’s it that makes us concern clowns?


Scientists typically agree that coulrophobia is a results of not realizing who lies behind the make-up, pink nostril and hair of a clown.

Based on Coulrophobia Info, analysis has proven the concern of clowns has elevated because the Steven Spielberg’s Nineteen Nineties’ movie, ‘It’, which depicts a murderous clown.

The portrayal of the Joker in Batman movies can be blamed.

Based on the location, the phobia, which may trigger panic, respiration problem and nausea, does stop some individuals from consuming at McDonald’s.

Coulrophobia can have an effect on each adults and youngsters.

‘Nobody is born with a concern of clowns’

Phobia guru Adam Cox mentioned two key elements clarify why lots of people discover them so menacing — and it is very a lot a product of our society. 

‘Nobody is born with a concern of clowns,’ he advised MailOnline. 

‘The one two fears we’re born with are a concern of loud noises and a concern of falling.’

So it is not engrained in us from start, however Cox mentioned an uneasiness about clowns is one thing that may start at a younger age. 

He added: ‘As a baby you may need met somebody whose face you could not see, whether or not that be Father Christmas, a clown or somebody dressed up in a cuddly animal costume.

‘As a result of their face is obscured by make-up or a masks, and we won’t correctly see it, it is way more tough to learn their expressions and intentions.

‘That is fairly unnerving, and it is not unreasonable that many youngsters react the way in which they do after they see somebody in costume. 

‘The response of concern is comprehensible.’

Dr Frances Maratos, from the College of Derby, added: ‘Faces are one in every of our most necessary non-verbal communication alerts. 

‘We use faces to know and interpret what persons are considering and their motives. 

‘Clowns fairly often look as if they’ve a frozen smile so you can not see what the clown is admittedly considering nor what their motives are.’

Exaggerated options

Based on Professor Mark Griffiths, a chartered psychologist at Nottingham Trent College, the whole lot about the way in which a clown clothes may also be disconcerting.

‘Clowns have exaggerated options, significantly the face, hair and ft — large noses, scary mouths, large elongated footwear, and wildfire hair which may also be scary to some individuals,’ he advised MailOnline.

Dr Maratos, who has written a weblog submit on coulrophobia, added: ‘One motive why persons are terrified of clowns is to do with the truth that individuals recognise that they need to be human-like however really someway they don’t look fairly proper. 

‘As an alternative they generally look grotesque and fairly often, their faces have been distorted. This may be very unnerving.’

Cox mentioned clowns are sometimes ‘dehumanised’ due to their make-up.

‘If clowns have sad-looking eyes however a giant smile on their face it is disconcerting. And all of the make-up masks what their expressions is admittedly exhibiting,’ he added.

‘It dehumanises them, very similar to army riot police as a result of you possibly can’t see their faces, it makes them much less human due to all of the make-up and unusual wig.’ 

Impact of Hollywood and the media

One other key motive, Cox mentioned, is how clowns have been portrayed within the media.

‘The serial killer John Wayne Gacy labored part-time as a clown however by no means really murdered anybody whereas dressed up as one. 

‘Regardless of that, he turned often known as the “Killer Clown” and that’s what the general public keep in mind him for.

Psychologists say the fear of clowns was exaggerated by the release of Stephen King's famous horror novel It, published in 1986, and the ensuing TV miniseries four years later (pictured)

Psychologists say the concern of clowns was exaggerated by the discharge of Stephen King’s well-known horror novel It, revealed in 1986, and the following TV miniseries 4 years later (pictured)


Gacy's mugshot from December 1978

Gacy’s mugshot from December 1978

John Wayne Gacy was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 17, 1942.

The highschool dropout graduated from Northwestern Enterprise Faculty in 1963.

He then took a job at a shoe firm, rising to division supervisor.

Gacy married Marlynn Myers in 1964 and managed her father’s KFC franchises in Iowa.

Whereas volunteering at a civic group there, he sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy and later ordered a beating on him to maintain him from testifying.

He was sentenced to 10 years in jail however solely served 18 months.

Myers divorced him and he by no means noticed his youngsters once more.

From 1972 to 1978, he would go on to homicide 33 younger males and boys.

He would typically rape them and torture them, with one man who bought away testifying that Gacy put a material over his head that made him unconscious.

Gacy was caught after killing 15-year-old Robert Piest, a highschool sophomore who labored at a pharmacy that Gacy’s contracting firm, PDM, had not too long ago transformed.

He was questioned by police and launched, although he was arrested 10 days after the homicide whereas below police surveillance.

He was executed by deadly injection on Could 10, 1994.

‘The thought of clowns as being creepy actually resonated with individuals.’

Gacy, who assaulted and murdered at the least 33 younger males and boys between 1972 and 1978, commonly carried out at youngsters’s hospitals and charitable occasions as ‘Pogo the Clown’ or ‘Patches the Clown’. 

He was sentenced to loss of life and executed by deadly injection aged 52 in 1994.

Earlier this week, a person from North Carolina turned the third particular person to be named as one in every of Gacy’s victims within the final decade.

The stays of Francis Wayne Alexander, from North Carolina, had been recognized by way of DNA testing after being discovered within the crawl house of Gacy’s Chicago-area dwelling in 1978.

After Gacy, the concern of clowns was exaggerated additional by the discharge of Stephen King’s well-known horror novel ‘It’, revealed in 1986, and the following TV miniseries 4 years later, Cox mentioned.  

He added: ‘Seeing youngsters being chased down a drain and a clown with sharp, menacing tooth and exaggerated options solely served to implement the stereotype of them being scary.’

Professor Griffiths agreed that Hollywood was partly responsible.

‘Clowns additionally are typically scary due to their evil illustration in movies,’ he advised MailOnline.

‘Their faces have turn into a part of a scare tradition, such because the cinematic trope of the evil clown, together with the Joker in Batman and the clown in It, who are sometimes killers.

‘Even when you have not come into contact with clowns, you are influenced by what you see in tv and movies.’

Killer Clown Craze

Again in the summertime of 2016, what was often known as the ‘Killer Clown Craze’ unfold like an epidemic throughout the US, with individuals dressed as threatening clowns popping up all around the nation.

The phenomenon then unfold to Canada, Australia and eventually Britain later that 12 months, with police known as to dozens of incidents the place pranksters dressed as ‘creepy clowns’ to intentionally scare individuals. 

Cox mentioned this has additionally had an impression on why clowns are seen as terrifying.

‘You had individuals being chased by pranksters in costume and the movies later uploaded to YouTube.

‘In some instances, melons had been made to appear like an individual’s head being smashed with a sledgehammer as a approach to intimidate and scare individuals.’

Historical past of coulrophobia

So when did a concern of clowns turn into a factor?

‘It has most likely emerged because the 60s onwards,’ Cox mentioned, citing each Gacy alongside the discharge of It and a wave of horror movies that did not essentially characteristic clowns however had killers wearing masks.

‘Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Road, Jason in Friday the thirteenth and the movie Scream all had a big effect on individuals, together with It,’ he added.

The ‘uncanny valley’ phenomenon 

Another excuse Professor Griffiths highlighted was the ‘uncanny valley’ phenomenon, which dates again to the Seventies.

It’s an eerie or unsettling feeling that some individuals expertise in response to not-quite-human-like figures similar to humanoid robots and computer-generated characters.  

‘A determine is lifelike sufficient to be disturbing, however not reasonable sufficient to be nice and due to this fact frightens individuals, significantly youngsters,’ he mentioned. 

John Wayne Gacy (pictured), who assaulted and murdered at least 33 young men and boys between 1972 and 1978, regularly performed at children's hospitals and charitable events as 'Pogo the Clown' or 'Patches the Clown'

John Wayne Gacy (pictured), who assaulted and murdered at the least 33 younger males and boys between 1972 and 1978, commonly carried out at youngsters’s hospitals and charitable occasions as ‘Pogo the Clown’ or ‘Patches the Clown’

In 2016, what was known as the 'Killer Clown Craze' spread across the US, with people dressed as threatening clowns popping up all over the country. It eventually made its way to Britain

In 2016, what was often known as the ‘Killer Clown Craze’ unfold throughout the US, with individuals dressed as threatening clowns popping up all around the nation. It will definitely made its approach to Britain 

The thought is that we like and really feel empathy for robots that look considerably human-like, however are repulsed if they appear too human.  

With clowns, the heavy make-up that distorts their options blurs the strains of trying human, to not point out their massive ft and weird hair.

‘Some argue that folks expertise concern and unsettling revulsion after they see humanoid objects which elicit uncanny, or unusually related emotions of eeriness — for instance deformities,’ Dr Maratos mentioned.

‘Clowns, robots, dolls, mannequins — typically they appear nearly human however one thing just isn’t fairly proper.’

How you can deal with coulrophobia?

‘There’s little analysis on why persons are terrified of clowns, and naturally, most individuals will not be terrified of them,’ Professor Griffiths mentioned.

‘[However], some do have a real phobia of clowns within the type of coulrophobia.’

Cox mentioned: ‘The benefit of coulrophobia is that you would be able to simply keep away from clowns. 

‘All you need to do just isn’t go to the circus, not watch a scary movie and keep in on Halloween.

‘However after all with most different phobias avoidance just isn’t an choice.’ 

He added: ‘Lots of people really turn into clowns as a result of they’re sad or wrestle in social conditions, so it is a method of making a persona to precise themselves and speak to individuals.

‘What these with coulrophobia must do is think about the particular person behind the clown façade. The human there, with actual ideas and emotions, who’s unhappy. 

‘That is how they recover from it.’


These are a few of the sightings of clowns within the UK again in 2016:

This map shows where in Britain there were reported sightings of clowns back in 2016

This map reveals the place in Britain there have been reported sightings of clowns again in 2016

Bracknell: Leah Woodcock noticed a clown peeping by way of a restaurant window as she ate with buddies on Sunday night time. 

Crawley, West Sussex: Residents report seeing individuals with clown masks ‘mendacity in wait’ on road corners as they put together to chase adults and youngsters down the streets. 

Manchester: On Sunday night time, two separate incidents of two clowns leaping out at individuals as they stopped their vehicles outdoors a procuring centre had been reported, with one girl claiming one jumped on her automotive bonnet. 

County Durham: A clown jumped out at 4 younger youngsters, aged 11 and 12, on their approach to college.

Manchester: Kids had been left ‘petrified’ by an individual driving by way of the streets carrying a clown masks.

Gloucester: Six studies had been product of pranksters dressed as clowns wielding knives, following individuals or appearing suspiciously.

Gtr Manchester: A clown was noticed ambling down a road carrying a hockey masks and coated in ‘blood’ in the course of the day in Ashton-under-Lyne  

Plymouth: A person posted a video on-line exhibiting him being confronted at night time within the city by a clown armed with a hammer. There have been different report of individuals dressed as clowns, together with one close to a college bus.

Newcastle: There have been a number of studies of a knife-wielding clown in a Teeside village the place a mom and daughter had been reportedly chased by one.  

Liverpool: A clowns social media account sharing photographs of colleges in Liverpool on Friday, with scared children additionally recognizing them. Police presence elevated outdoors a number of faculties on Monday in response to obvious threats made by the clowns the week earlier than. 

Dundee: Police had been known as to a park after eight children in clown masks had been noticed scary motorists within the space.

Sheffield: Staff in Sheffield noticed a clown on a mobility scooter.

Leeds: Tom Jackson, 18, a primary 12 months pupil at Leeds Beckett College mentioned he was ‘very scared’ when he noticed a person dressed as a clown close to an underpass in Leeds at 4.30am on Friday.  

Essex: Two younger ladies on their approach to college had been approached by a pair of male clowns in a black van who invited the ladies to a birthday celebration. The ladies fled in terror.

Caernarfon, North Wales: A passenger in a passing automotive noticed a clown close to a children playground at night time. 

Walsall: A driver posted footage of a clown attempting to get into her automotive, additionally claiming he had adopted her right into a pub and stared at her for 5 minutes earlier than leaving. 

Norfolk, Norwich: A 30-year-old man dressed up as a clown has been arrested after leaping out on a lone girl in a park and chasing her. The person was arrested in reference to Public Order offences after screaming on the feminine sufferer on Sunday. He was given a warning.

Chorley, Lancashire: A clown lurked outdoors a house for quarter-hour earlier than a grandmother shouted for it to ‘p*** off’. 

Leicester: A girl claims she gave start at eight months after a teenage clown jumped out and scared her, inflicting her to enter early labour. Mom and child are mentioned to be doing nicely. 

Watford, Hertfordshire: At 3.30pm on Sunday October 9 two youngsters driving their bears as much as Harebreaks had been beeped at by a automotive which had a clown holding a butter knife in who shouted ‘I am a clown with a knife’

Sandy, Bedfordshire: Based on Clown Noticed UK on Fb an image was shared on Monday, October 10, of two clowns in close by woods, one allegedly with a chainsaw.

Carmarthen, Wales: The social media web page additionally confirmed one within the city centre of Carmarthen.